Mizu's of Patpong is the story of two Japanese gentlemen - and a lady. This tale is old, very old, and is a synthesis of a number of accounts dating back to the Japanese occupation of Thailand during WWII, and to the earliest formative days of Patpong Road. This account is, by necessity, a weaving of 3rd-hand accounts and the only"one-on-one" interview with "Mizu" Mizutani (thankfully preserved by the Bangkok Post's Hanuman). Where contradictions in the third-party accounts have arisen, and there were several, the Hanuman account prevails. (Continued below......)
Not much to look at, behind that door, Mizu's Kitchen : one of Bangkok's great restaurants.
In the early 1940s the Army of the Greater Japanese Empire sent "Mizu" Mizutani and Aiko Masakan off to the Asian mainland to do the business of war. No, they were not sent to Nanking. No, they were not Zero pilots. They were sent to Bangkok, then under Japanese occupation, where Aiko was to cook in the Imperial Japanese Army officers' mess, and Mizu was, it seems, taking his meals at that very same officers' mess.
An old photo from the archives. You can almost see the smoke from the hotplates arriving from the kitchen...
During the War, the land that was to be Patpong Road was a banana plantation which the Japanese had appropriated for a cantonment area. It was only after the war in 1946 that the senior Patpongpanich purchased that land, later cutting a roadway through, connecting Silom and Surawong Roads. It is surmised that this wartime cantonment area is the very place an acquaintance was first struck between Mizu and Aiko.
A view of Mizu's Kitchen from downstairs. The stairwell to the main dining room can be seen at the left.
After the War ended in 1945, Mizu and Aiko were repatriated to Japan. And by all measure, they did well for themselves, landing positions at the prestigious and earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel, designed, in part, by Frank Lloyd Wright. But the only constant on this planet is "change", and their futures were to take a pivotal twist. The government-owned and managed Erawan Hotel (prior to it becoming the Hyatt Erawan) was still under construction when they contacted the Japanese-owned and managed Imperial Hotel in Tokyo for the purpose of 'lend-leasing' hotel staff for the soon-to-be grand opening of the Erawan in 1956. Mizu was selected for this temporary assignment at the Erawan on a short-term visa, and he brought Aiko back to Bangkok with him as his chef. This arrangement worked well for all parties, but at the expiration of the visas, neither Mizu nor Aiko were of a mind to return to Tokyo - they had lost their hearts to Old Siam (or, less declamitorily... they had been bitten by the Bangkok bug).
Considering the compressed timeframes, it is likely that Mizu had started negotiations for a shophouse of his own even before his tenure expired at the Erawan. But 'nothing is easy'; so he returned to his old stomping grounds to explore possibilities at Patpong Road. ("Old Man" Patpong had already completed his roadway through from Silom to Surawong and had begun leasing out plots to local and expat businesses.) After setting his sites on what would later be number 32 Patpong Road, Mizu entered into a long and arduous negotiation with a singularly suspicious landlady. Mizu was finally able to win her over and sublease the shophouse that would become Mizu's Kitchen. The two, Mizu and Aiko immediately set to work, and before the end of 1957 Mizu's Kitchen was in business. It would seem at this juncture it would be appropriate to say, "And the rest is history," but things were just warming up...
The walls tell the story...
Less than two years after Mizu's Kitchen had opened, it had already become popular with the then-active circle of Bangkok expats, and by tacit agreement among the resident journalists of the day, it became the ad-hoc meeting place for the nascent Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand - FCCT. The FCCT made Mizu the first Honorary President - the honorific not being taken seriously, but worn proudly, nonetheless. In those early, comparatively uncomplicated times, wherever foreign journalists congregated, they attracted the so-called 'embassy-types' and members of a burgeoning Air America crowd. This, in turn, sparked the first rumors that the 'intelligence community' frequented Mizu's Kitchen to stay abreast of 'the latest', and to 'rub elbows'. (Nowadays, of course, things have reversed - now the Media slinks over to the 3-Letter Agencies to get the latest 'leak' - any leak will do - we can beat up anything into a good 'story'... but I digress...).
While these 'Air America shadow-types' and 'embassy-types' certainly frequented the bars in and around Patpong in those early years, the stories told, and then retold, were (to say it nicely) 'glorifications' by those who would otherwise like to spice up their lives with dark intrigue and The Mysteries of the Orient... Alas, these colorful stories persist today, having gained even more traction during the then-approaching onslaught of the Viet Nam War in the late 60's and early 70's. These breathless stories continued to self-embellish, describing a number of Patpong area bars as "CIA hangouts", (Lucy's Tiger Den, Napoleon, Madrid... etc, etc.). And, all rumors being true, (Ho ho ho...) Mizu's Kitchen was the seed, the spawning-place that started it all...
Later, Bobby De Cozier of Bobby's Arms, would bid to host the FCCT, but would fail. Nevertheless, the FCCT would eventually outgrow (literally) the diminutive Mizu's Kitchen, and through successive years, moved to a number of different locations, to include its halcyon years atop the now defunct Dusit Thani Hotel. Most recently, the FCCT has come to rest at the Maniya Building - said building located, as the old dogs will recall, where the Thai Yonoke once held all-night vigil... But I'm digressing again...
In a seemingly unrelated series of events across town, Khun Chavalit, owner of the Ambassador Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 11, was firing 'incompetent' local hotel managers at the rate of about one a month. Let's just say this in the kindliest of terms; he wasn't an easy person to get along with. He began a search for someone he saw as able to grab his ass with both hands, and someone who could put up with him. A seemingly impossible couple of conditions... He then met Mizu Mizutani, who was tall, well dressed, of dignified manner, and spoke almost as directly and bluntly as he, Chavalit, did. He made Mizu an offer he couldn't refuse - and shortly thereafter, he, Mizu Mizutani, went over to the Ambassador as manager, staying there for a number of years. Until Mizu's death in the 90's, to include his years at the Ambassador Hotel, he continued to be the 'public face' of Mizu's Restaurant - chef Aiko remaining for the most part in the background. After Mizu's passing, Aiko took up the slack, both as manager and chief chef. On Aiko's eventual passing a few years ago, his very competent daughter, Khun Salanya, took over management of Mizu's Kitchen. Due to Aiko's advanced age, many speculate Khun Salanya was managing Mizu's Kitchen years before Aiko's untimely passing.
Through the decades, Mizu's Kitchen developed a flavor of its own. Literally. Year after year, decade after decade, the endless sizzling Sarika Farm steaks served on even hotter hotplates had deposited a thin patina of yellowish-tan grease over the entire restaurant. The smell of the restaurant was unique - a blindfolded person led into Mizu's Kitchen would know exactly where, in Bangkok, he was. But not to be misunderstood, this was not a bad thing - it was part of the Mizu's Kitchen dining experience. It was during these later years that Mizu's Kitchen expanded their fare from a simple 'meatballs & spaghetti' type menu to a more diverse, international selection. Many of us, however irreverently, would head upstairs to Mizu's Kitchen and order the Rape of Nanking Combination Plate. There was, of course, no such menu item - we, the demented few, gave this moniker to any Chinese menu item chased by any Japanese menu item. A personal favorite was the Shanghai Pork Noodles followed by Shrimp Tempura. Oh, the memories.
If you haven't guessed by now - Mizu's Kitchen closed (on 27 March 2019). Ramping up in the mid '50's, it was the longest running, by far, expat-owned restaurant in Bangkok. It was, in a very real sense, the genesis of what Patpong Road would become - without consciously trying, Mizu's Kitchen very early on became a focal point, a place where expats were comfortable to congregate day or night. Mizu's Kitchen could then sit back and watch from it's second floor perch while Patpong Road became the most famous, most notorious nexus of expat night entertainment in Asia, if not the world.
Those new to Bangkok, be they recently arrived expat or tourist, will hardly take note of Mizu's Kitchen's closing, if they even knew of Mizu's Kitchen at all. To them, the closing of Mizu's Kitchen will be of 'zero' significance. Those who knew it back in an earlier, less sophisticated version of Bangkok - a Bangkok made up of an intertwined cast of one-off characters - will see Mizu's Kitchen's demise as an historic closing of a door, a door not to be reopened. 'Turn the page'.
Copious thanks to Hanuman, who, yet again, more than lived up to his mythical namesake, and to Duke d'Thonglor for yeoman's work in researching the FCCT - all of which we greedily incorporated into the above confabulation...
Slow response, but history has to be correct! Reference your January Reader's Corner:
Moonshine on Soi Cowboy was the first of the bars owned by Ott and her husband Bobby Toombs. Some of the scenes for Good Morning Vietnam were shot there. At that time the Bangkok Post ran an article on Bobby and his business. By the time Bobby finished his days at the Silver Dollar bar in Washington Square, Ott was already with Ned. After Bobby died, Ott and Ned took over the running of the Silver Dollar. Cheers.
Thanks much for the correction on Moonshine and the additional information on the Silver Dollar. As you say, "History must be correct." We note that the Silver Dollar closed at the end of 2012 as Washington Square continued winding down in advance of redevelopment projects.
Great coverage in your graffiti essay on 'gentrification'. It should also be mentioned that this is a global problem, where wealthier developers and wannabe homeowners buy up residences for occupancy or resale. The poorer classes are the ones hurt due to forced relocation. The reason - the poorer people are for the most part just renting, and have no say over the sale of the homes they live in. Thanks,
We agree, 'gentrification' is certainly a global issue. We actually did touch on the plight of home and business renters in our original essay. We also noted that the difference between 'gentrification' and normal (and eventually unstoppable) redevelopment is the rate at which it happens. (We noted that everything, bar perhaps the pyramids, will eventually be redeveloped.) Its really more a matter of semantics; gentrification happens at an accelerated rate, affording little time for occupants to make plans and to respond. The emphasis of our article was the protesting of gentrification through the 'vehicle' of graffiti.
Happy New Year and I hope all is well. Did you guys do anything on (or remember) the beer bars that were haphazardly erected on Sukhumvit Soi 10 (?) around the late 90's?? I feel this series of bars were never established as a mainstream entertainment area but were more or less used by the usual naughty boys and expats. I think the gov't had them torn down in the early 2000's, saying they were encroached on private property. Any usual "who, what, where, when, why" would be appreciated.
We began covering the Soi 10 bars starting with our June 2002 issue <link>. We had almost continuous monthly coverage on through to our February 2003 issue, which covered the destruction of the entire Night Entertainment Area by a
military ma.fia <link>. This clandestine military operation was at the behest of the landowner himself (now-disgraced politician Chu.wit Kam.olwisit) - and made international news.
The name of the Night Entertainment Area was originally 'Thai Help Thai', but was changed shortly after to Sukhumvit Square. We also had many follow-up stories in successive editions.
See also our history of
Sukhumvit Square at : <link>. We also produced the only map of that Nitespot Area showing all the venues. It can be
viewed at: <link> .
READER : Hello,
Your posts a great source. As a some-time visitor to Bangkok I noticed your map in the March issue of Soi 3 and 'Arab Town'. Is that Arab thing a real thing and is it something a tourist nightlifer like myself would visit? And do other outsiders hang out there?
"Arab Town" is not the actual name of that area, or any area we know of. It is a 'popular name' for the area around Sukhumvit Soi 3/1. The term is likely only used among a group of resident expats living in Bangkok. It is almost entirely composed of Middle-Eastern restaurants and shops and is a popular destination for Middle-Eastern and African tourists. If you like Middle-Eastern food, as do we, we would suggest you include 'Arab Town' on your itinerary. For other 'Nightlife' activities, you will have to search further afield - there is virtually no 'Nightlife' there (we did note one exception : the massage parlor Sisters Massage).
What was the original King's Castle, and once judged to be the world's best bar, is now under renovation. (It was eventually turned into the King's Castle III - a katoeyA Go-Go - before its final demise.) Works are now almost complete on the new bar's interior. Should the street chatter be accurate, it will open as soon as next month as yet another boy bar - one of the several transplants from the now-closing Soi Twilight. What it will be named is anyone's guess - a wait-and-see item.
We don't normally comment on the closing of a pharmacy, but our sources on the street advise (with at least some authority) that it will open in May as yet another 'boy bar' transplant from Soi Twilight. Again, a wait-and-see item....
Could it possibly be true that has been ten years since the Black Pagoda took over the reins from Patpong 2's 'bar on the bridge' - the Park Bridge? Oh, yes, renovations completed, it opened in September of 2009. How time does fly... Let the good times roll...
The Strip had been rumored to be closing down at the end of March, and that is exactly what happened. They chose to go out with a 'whimper' instead of a 'bang' - having a three-day 'festival' starting 29 March. Once one of the greater Bangkok A Go-Go's, it had faded in recent times. Rumors are afloat that there is already an offer for a new Nitespot at that location. -But rumors (as we are wont to say) and 65 baht will get you a cup of ice coffee at the Thermae. Below are a couple of pics from our archives of The Strip in its heyday...
Bada Bing A Go-Go was to close at the end of February, but lingered on to mid-March before the final curtain came down. ...Well, not quite the 'final curtain' - it was to reopen soon after that without a name-change, and with what appeared to be new management and a new on-stage line-up. That 'on-stage lineup' has, in recent days, taken on some new and eye-appealing talent - perhaps from the recently closed The Strip? May they keep on keeping on...
Up on the The Ramp (2nd level), the Qeen 501 Studio Bar (- 'Queen' in Thai language) has taken over the reins of what was once the 9501 Studio Bar. This is the second 'boy bar' up on The Ramp to have relocated from Soi Twilight (with more in the pipeline).
King Night Club is the latest to open upstairs in the Rajah Hotel outbuilding. (Is not that name already spoken for? -Just sayin'...) It follows the short-lived Tamasha Exclusive Indian Club & Lounge, and the later Red Moscow Club & Lounge. The King doesn't appear to be any more popular than either of its predecessors, nevertheless, we wish them well as they venture into the neon jungle...
Another case of 'gone-but-not-gone' - last month, we had written off Bar I'on as yet another fallen soldier, but we see they were, in fact, undergoing major renovations - to include an actual sign this time around... Welcome them back to the party...
Candy Massage, located deep in the Soi, and down at the end of Subsoi Lemongrass has called it a night. With the plethora of massage parlors in that area, we are amazed that any of them can keep their heads above water. May they find the grass greener on down the road apiece...
The short-lived Kick Club located in the Holiday Inn at the top of the Soi was under lock-and-key (literally) when we passed by on the weekend. Yet another Nitespot adventure in that hotel that just didn't cut the mustard...
The Paradise Thai Massage is closed down for renovations - the signage has been removed, lending credence to a possible name-change. Lets see what the night will bring....
The indoor-outdoor Hemingway have completed their renovations at the old Zaks digs, and they are looking good. There has, however, been a slight change to their modus operandi - they are now a "restaurant - pub". The same great menu cooks along until about 10:30 p.m., - at which time the kitchen shuts down and they become a pub. The pub takes 'last orders' at 01:30 a.m.., and everyone, at least theoretically, goes home at 02:00 a.m.. And, yes, some of the old Hemingway staff came on over to the new digs... ..."I get paid by the word - I'm not finished yet," as a famous journalist once said. Something brand-new is a-working upstairs... Watch this space....
"The Door Art Of The Month" for April goes to Hemingway - they paid attention to detail, making the new digs as comfortable as the old - which many will remember from Sukhumvit Soi 14. (Not that we have forgiven the landowners at Sukhumvit Soi 14 for selling out - and destroying a structure that should have been a Bangkok Heritage Site....)
(Sukhumvit Soi 11)
Coming on line this month is the Grace Massage. It has opened newly in the small soi just past The Australian. It appears to be first-cousin to Grace Foot Massage & Salon just around the corner on the main Soi. Note the fine print: "No Happy Ending"..... signage-wise, this may be a Thailand 'first'. May Lady Luck smile....
(Sukhumvit Soi 11)
The Rosabieng(The 'Dining Car') Music Bar & Restaurant, which closed a couple of months ago, appears to be open - but it is not. An enterprising street bar has opened part of the fence and set up shop....
The Firm opened its doors in December of 2017 in what was Soi 33's pioneer bar, Renoir Club 1841. It closed in November of 2018. Not long after it closed, we noticed a buzz of activity, however it apparently wasn't open to the public. By January 2019 it had reopened and, while under 'new' management, it retained the same name. This month all the signage has been restored, and they appear to be 'business as usual'.
ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
Love & Service Massage located in Subsoi 4 was closed and dark when we passed by. This has happened before, so before we relegate it to the recycle bin, lets give it a 'wait-and-see".
ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
Pent 33 was closed again when we passed by at the end of the month. This is the second time in the last few months it has been closed on weekend evenings (where it would be expected it would be open). We will have another look next survey, and get back atcha.
ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
The upstairs Kizuna Bar located next to the Pan Pan Italian Restaurant was locked down and in deep shadow when we passed by at the end of the month. We shall remove it from the rolls, with the provision that we will, of course, reinstate it should it come back to life...
Last month, we noted the Y'Not Bar had closed. This month, the next-door neighbor Good Time Massage has set up shop in those digs with an improvised bar beer. This is in essence, a return to what things were when Good Time first opened a number of months ago. Let's see what happens in the ensuing months...
Last month, we noted that bars in Bangkok's most well-known hard-core gay Night Entertainment Area, Soi Pratuchai, or, 'Soi Twilight' have been moving away -slowly but surely- for the last year. At that time we said that in spite of the remaining bars on that Soi trying hard to show it's business-as-usual, "The handwriting is more than just on the wall..." Since then, a lot has changed.A major migration out of Soi Twilight is in progress, and many of those bars (that have not already done so) are moving into Patpong 1 and Patpong 2. Next month, we will have a full report on the ongoing migration of these bars.
goes back in time to see
Who was new - And who was through
in the Expat Night Entertainment world.
How many of these old 'oases'
do you remember ?
*Club Habanos & Observatorey dropped "& Observatorey" (yes, that was the spelling...) to become just Club Habanos. Located next to, and an adjunct to Gold Finger's. There is no nightspot at that location today.
*SuperStar was forced by the Sign Ge.stapos to use its registered name, "P.P. SuperBar". It has since reverted to 'SuperStar'...
*Thai Lady Bar (2nd level) and 'Traditional Massage' (3rd level) opened above the Thigh Bar. Today, an unnamed Nitespot occupies the 2nd level.
* The second-level Queen's Castle IIshow bar dropped the "Susie Wong" portion of their name. Still there today, it goes by "Queen's II".
*No changes that month /
*Moonshine Pub was temporarily closed. It is still open at that location.
* Up on the 3rd level, the Mai's Bar opened newly in the small Hollywood Bier Bar digs (which had just closed).
(Soon to become 'Clinton Plaza' - Thermae Annex)
[ February 1999 - May 2003 ]
*Boat Bar - (previous month unnamed). Next to main building.
*Growler's Bar - Next to main building. NEW *The Last Money - On the 'Island'. NEW *Nuch Snack Bar - On the back row. NEW *Maya - (previous month unnamed). On the back row.
Soi Katoey ( Silom Soi 4 )
* The upstairs Deeper reopened after a 1-month closure. Currently Hugs occupies that space...
Buckskin Joe Village (~ December 1988 to December 2006)
(Also known -originally- as Tobacco Road or Soi Rot Fai or, 'The Tracks', and later as Machim [Thai] and Soi Zero)
* The Linda Bar - Find X.O. bar beer closed for renovations.
Mark Twain famously opined, "Politicians, old buildings, and prostitutes become respectable with age." If we can be somewhat more contemporaneous - without becoming overly cynical - we hereby paraphrase; "Rock stars, film actors and artists become venerated in death."
Examples are many, as highlighted by the recent passing of "old school" graff artistDan Whedon. (Here we note: any graff artist who vandalized New York City trains back in the day is so anointed with the accolade "old school".) He rose to fame, or at least notoriety and peer recognition under the tag, 'OMNI'. Nor should this 'fame' be a surprise to anyone : original, stark, colorful and disconcerting, his pieces were irresistible to the eye of even the most jaded.
Dan Whedon passed away on 21 February 2019 from a reported drug overdose. Another in the unending, serial drug deaths that, in these fast times, plague the famous, the gutter-dweller and all walks in between. Death by OD is now so commonplace, it has become tacitly acceptable - rarely even raising an eyebrow. It has, for the first time in US history, surpassed deaths-by-gunshot. And, as bizarre as it may seem, in the case of 'celebrity death', it has become a 'fame-multiplier' (...as sad and twisted as that may be...).
Dan's now-famous "Gentrify This"
Originally, Dan was a founding member of New York's '156 Crew' graff crew, however, more recently, he participated in the making of videos, as well as spraypainting murals, commissioned and otherwise. Much of his huge body of work can be found on his ongoing websiteDan Whedon - Omni< link >.
In the aftermath of Dan's tragic death, his many friends have marshaled forces and are donating personal funds directly, and have initiated a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs of creating a proper memorial. Their kick-off of the GoFundMe raised $8,500 within hours - and looks to easily reach their goal of $10,000.
By way of eulogy from his pals;
"May his colors never fade," and, "Rest in Paint".
8 ft high x 15 ft
Bangkok Eyes is an historically based news outlet, and as such, all graphic excerpts herein are considered, under current legal precedents and
prevailing interpretations, 'Fair Use' under Copyright Law. Copyright of any original artwork resides exclusively with the artists.
Bangkok's original site !
IDNITE HOUR Graffiti
is prepared by Staff Contributor "Boge" Hartman
(Boge's photo, above, is not a
se, although there are those who have insinuated....